Hurricane Harvey has shown the world just how strong Texans are. We couldn’t be more proud of the Lone Star State. It has also exposed some major weaknesses when it comes to disaster preparedness for businesses.
The HT Group’s offices in Beaumont and Orange, Texas, were affected by Harvey’s catastrophic flooding, and you can bet we’ve taken note of the areas in which our disaster preparedness plans should be strengthened.
Before another widespread disaster hits—whether it’s a flood, hurricane, earthquake, winter storm, wildfire, chemical leak or any other public emergency—take steps now to ensure the safety of your workers and the continuity of your business.
1. Plan now.
The best time to plan for an emergency is when there isn’t an emergency. You should always have a disaster preparedness plan in place—one that is reviewed and updated regularly.
For small businesses, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers a great way to get started, with checklists and tips for specific disasters.
Large employers and those in regulated industries should follow the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for emergency preparedness and response very closely.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) recommends that, when putting an emergency plan together, co-workers from all levels of your organization should be encouraged to take part in the process.
Considering a broad cross-section of people from throughout your organization will help inform the plan from all viewpoints.
2. Get the word out.
Communication is key when it comes to handling a disaster and, thankfully, communication has become much easier since the days of the telephone tree. There are now much more efficient ways to communicate emergency plans like business closures and evacuations.
Dana Wilkie reported for SHRM that businesses affected by Harvey used texting and email messaging to get information to their workers.
At the HT Group, we also set up an 800 number and offered alternative numbers for those outside of the Beaumont area to call for information, in addition to spreading the news on our website and social media. That way, employees were able to get the information they needed even if their cellphone was lost or broken.
3. Have a business continuity plan.
One in four businesses doesn’t open again after a major disaster. Stop and read that statistic again—it’s important. How can you be among the lucky businesses that survive?
Have a solid business continuity plan in place that includes data backup and recovery, supply chain contingency planning and other business continuity strategies.
FEMA offers the following tips when putting together a business continuity plan:
- Carefully assess how your company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are necessary to keep the business operating. Include emergency payroll, expedited financial decision-making and accounting systems to track and document costs in the event of a disaster.
- Establish procedures for succession of management including at least one person who is not at the company headquarters, if possible.
- Make a list of your most important customers and proactively plan ways to serve them during and after a disaster. Identify key suppliers, shippers, resources and other businesses you must interact with to make that happen.
These days, nearly every business in every industry would be crippled without its data and technology. The good news is that backing up and accessing data remotely (outside of a disaster area) is easier than ever.
The bad news? According to the business continuity experts at Datto, a majority (60 percent) of small businesses only have local backup, which does no good when a widespread disaster (or a fire or data breach) happens.
Only 6 percent of companies without a data recovery plan recover from a disaster. Be sure to include data backup and recovery as part of your business continuity plan to help your organization get back to business as quickly as possible.
People are also great additions to a business continuity plan. Remember that temporary staffing companies have temps and full-time staff ready to work, which can be a great help in recovering from a disaster. Whether it be general labor workers to help clean up, extra customer service or administrative help, staffing companies can make recovery easier by filling in the gaps while your full-time staff recover from disaster.
Texas will recover from Harvey but, due to careful planning, certain businesses will recover better than others. Don’t put off creating or updating your organization’s disaster preparedness plan until the next disaster hits.
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